Review – Necrosphere Deluxe

The indie scene is where creativity really thrives in the gaming world nowadays, but there are two small niches that show up quite often in this evergrowing market: twitch platformers and metroidvanias.

The former is known for its brutal difficulty, quick respawning mechanics and precise controls. Some of the most famous games in this subgenre are Super Meat Boy, The End is Nigh and Celeste. The latter became famous due to two games in specific, Super Metroid and Symphony of the Night, only to cease to exist in the late 2000’s, only to resurge with a vengeance with games like Ori and the Blind Forest, Axiom Verge and Hollow Knight. It was only but a matter of time until a game tried to blend these two styles into one title, and that’s basically what Necrosphere attempted to do.

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An actually pretty freaking easy section. Just died once!

The premise is simple. You take control of a recently deceased secret agent thrown into the realm of the dead, with the chance of actually going back to the world of the living by reaching certain portals.

The controls are as simplistic as the plot itself. You move left and right, that’s it. No jump button, no attack button. In order to do the former, you need to look for “gravity bubbles” or arrow marks to make you ascend. In order to defeat enemies that show up every now and then, you need to lure them to your death, as you will never find an ability that allows to properly defend yourself against them.

Necrosphere really tries to blend in twitch platforming and metroidvania exploration as smoothly as possible, but sadly, those genres are just too antagonistic in order to properly work in tandem. Exploring the not so vast world of the dead is a lot more complicated than it should due to the player never knowing where to actually go next. There are no hints, nor there is a map. There is always a chance you will end up in a very hard segment you can’t go back and then being forced to try to solve that platforming puzzle until you get it right on your hundredth attempt. I restarted the game from scratch more than once due to this problem.

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It might look easy but these fireballs are twitching around at the speed of light.

That’s a huge issue with Necrosphere, it never feels 100% fair. There isn’t a gradual difficulty curve: once the first few sections are over, you’re basically thrown into the world to die a lot. The puzzles often require millimetrical attention to detail and precise thinking, but the controls never felt responsive enough. There were sections I’d just eventually give up planning and just start jumping until I’d eventually succeed without even knowing how I did it. I never felt like I was learning with my mistakes, and the fact the map was open didn’t help either. Games like Celeste or Meat Boy carefully throw you into small and gradually difficult mini-levels, and you’d eventually improve as a player through small doses of trial and error and large doses of learning from where you failed. In Necrosphere, it’s the opposite.

In terms of visual and sound presentation, Necrosphere follows the retro-inspired trend of having 8-bit visuals and tunes, and while it’s not entirely bad (pixel art takes a lot more effort than it looks), it ended up looking and sounding repetitive after a while. Environments looked too samey, with the color of the walls often being the only thing that differentiated an area from another. While there was absolutely nothing wrong with the soundtrack, not a single track stood out for me either.

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Can’t say the same about you, mate.

Despite the promising premise, blending two of the most prominent subgenres in indie gaming into one little retro-infused package, I have to say that Necrosphere just doesn’t work very well. It is indeed challenging, but it more often than not ends up being an exercise in frustration and irritating amounts of trial and error than a proper twitch platformer that allows you to learn from your mistakes. The confusing layout, excessively minimalistic control scheme and lack of a map only contribute to it becoming even more frustrating. There’s a good game in here, but you need to be ridiculously patient in order to truly enjoy it.

 

Graphics: 5.0

Retro-styled graphics with very stretched sprites and repetitive backgrounds.

Gameplay: 6.5

All you do is move left and right. It’s extremely minimalistic. Sadly, despite being a twitch-like platformer, the responsiveness isn’t as immediate as it should be.

Sound: 5.5

Necrosphere Deluxe is one of those games featuring a soundtrack, but you can’t even notice that sound is coming out from the Switch’s speakers, not because the volume is low, but because the soundtrack is just that forgettable.

Fun Factor: 5.5

As a challenging platforming experience, Necrosphere Deluxe does things right. As a metroidvania, it fails miserably due to its confusing layout and the fact twitch-like platforming isn’t suited for exploration-heavy titles.

Final Verdict: 5.5

Necrosphere Deluxe is available now on PS4, PS Vita and Nintendo Switch.

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.

A copy of Necrosphere Deluxe was provided by the publisher.

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